Wednesday, May 18, 2022 |
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At the start of every marathon, you will always find people filled with hope.
Hope that the race goes well.
Hope that you will feel wonderful.
Hope that you will beat your goal.
Hope that all that training pays off.
Hope that this will be one of those days when things go right.
At the Honolulu Marathon on Sunday, for me, those hopes reached a high, a low, they crashed, and they roared back to life.
With just three days to the 26.2-mile race that was expected to have a field of some 25,000 runners, I was feeling fast and fit. I ran daily, my steps were springy. My legs were light. A final few sprints on Wednesday added a final touch, an edge, that was needed.
Hopes were high.
Sunday morning at 5 a.m., as the countdown to the start worked its way down on Ala Moana Boulevard that would send us off under a canopy of fireworks, I felt tired. Sluggish. Weary. Listless. Not even the excitement and energy of an expectant crowd could snap me out of it. I had lost that edge. I don’t know why. Perhaps because, more by accident than design, I hadn’t run for three days. It was a mistake that could not be undone now.
My hopes were sinking.
In the first miles, I held back, barely breathing, running easy, but yet, I could sense something was not right. The miles clicked off slower than hoped, in the 8:40s, as we passed along Honolulu Harbor and the Aloha Tower and the Iolani Palace.
The climb up Diamond Head seemed much longer than the previous years. Much tougher. It went on and on. The headwind howled and tried to toss us back. Still, thanks to the relentless cheerfulness of the volunteers who rooted us on, we reached the top and roared down the other side.
I had hope.
I tried to divert my attention to my fellow marathoners. I said hello to a woman in a Santa outfit, chatted with two guys with inflatable planes strapped to their backs, waved to a man running while waving Old Glory, and smiled at a lady wearing a wedding dress. They seemed to be having so much fun. They seemed happy.
I wanted to have fun. I wanted to be happy.
A headwind greeted us on Kalanianaole Highway through Waialae Iki, Aina Haina and Niu Valley, and sucked away the remnants of fun and happy. This was now about survival. The heck with hope. A turn onto Hawaii Kai Drive didn’t change my luck but eventually it led to the wind at our backs as we returned to Kalanianaole Highway. This helped, but not for long. My mile splits slowed.
Hope was on life support.
But there was good news. Others were slowing even more. Others were suffering. And misery loves company. With each mile, more runners were now turned walkers, with some in a zombie shuffle of sorts. Many stopped and stretched in hopes of freeing up cramped leg muscles.
Back near the top of Diamond Head again, with the realization there was only mile and a half to go, I opened up my pace. I passed a long stretch of others.
Hope found a final breath.
The last mile, at 8:20, would be my fastest of the day.
I finished in 3:57:04 which, while slower than what I hoped, wasn’t a disaster. Perhaps, I thought, this was just the best that I could have done on that day. Perhaps I’m just getting too old to run fast as I would like.
Later, during the two-mile walk with my wife back to the condo where we were staying, on beautiful, sunny morning, I wore the medal and lei from the marathon around my neck and carried my shoes. It was, surprisingly, a glorious barefoot walk. My disappointment of how the race went was washed away by scores of friendly people offering smiles and congratulations.
The feeling that I had failed, that I had fallen short of expectations, was giving way to a feeling of, yes, hope.
Hope that I would try this marathon again.
Hope that I still had many miles to run.
Hope that I will have even better days.
Hope, as it should be, was alive and well.
Bill Buley is the editor of The Garden Island newspaper. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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